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The Cover
July 4, 2007

Benjamin Franklin

Author Affiliations

The Cover Section Editor: M. Therese Southgate, MD, Senior Contributing Editor.

JAMA. 2007;298(1):14. doi:10.1001/jama.298.1.14

He was a man of the Enlightenment, as much at home in a Paris drawing room as in a Philadelphia print shop. He could be charming with the ladies, witty in conversation, and sagacious in affairs of state. He was the 15th in a family of 17 children but among the first in the hearts of his countrymen. His illegitimate son was the Loyalist governor of New Jersey, whereas he himself was a founding father of the United States of America. At 70 years of age, he was one of the oldest signers of the Declaration of Independence. And he was a diplomat: Before the Revolutionary War he negotiated in London in an effort to prevent war; when his efforts were unsuccessful, he went to France to raise money to pay for it. He combined the creativity of a writer with the rigor of a scientist; his essays range from practical advice to the common man to philosophic speculations addressed to his peers. His experiments ranged from the study of electricity to the invention of bifocals. In his personal life he was in some matters abstemious, in others less so. He had gout and bladder stone and took opium for relief. He died in April of 1790 at the age of 84 after a brief respiratory illness. He is buried beside his wife in Philadelphia. A man of letters and a man of science, he was also a man of the people. Born in Boston, died in Philadelphia, he was Benjamin Franklin.